You may have heard all about Ashers Baking Co, as the owners Daniel McArthur and his wife Amy refused to bake a cake which promoted gay marriage.
The couple are currently embroiled in a court case over the matter, which all began when they cancelled an order for a cake which featured the slogan “support gay marriage”.
In their court case, Judge Isobel Brownlie ruled that their refusal to bake the cake (which had been ordered by gay rights activist Gareth Lee) amounted to discrimination, for which they have been fined.
They are due to appeal this ruling in the Court of Appeal in Belfast this week, which may have prompted their new comments. They have gone on record to say that their experiences have been like living in a dystopian “science fiction” world but said they had “no regrets”.
This is despite the unfortunate reality that the couple have received a lot of hate mail and death threats due to their refusal. However, they did see support from an unexpected source – Peter Tatchell. While Peter said that he disagreed with the McArthur’s views, he argued it is a basic “infringement of freedom” to force people to promote ideas to which they conscientiously object.
Do keep in mind, this is not a case of the bakery refusing to bake a cake for a gay wedding, but a refusal to bake a cake which directly promotes same-sex marriage. While pretty much everyone will disagree with the McArthur’s views on marriage equality, you can see Peter’s argument – even if you don’t agree with it.
When speaking on their experiences, Daniel McArthur said: “It is strange. It is like something out of a science fiction book: ‘you have to do this, there is no choice … you must do this, no matter what your conscience tells you, no matter how hard, never mind that you couldn’t do that, you have to do it we demand it of you’.”
He is also insistent that rather than them discriminating against Gareth Lee, they were instead the victims of discrimination by being denied the right to not endorse gay marriage.
“For us, I think it means you have to leave your Christianity at your house and in your church, once you go out the door in the morning you can forget about your Christian beliefs. I’m sure that affects many other religions as well … but [our faith affects] every part of our lives. It is impossible for us not to bring it with us during the day.”
“It is our human right to live according to those beliefs and we can’t do something that goes against those beliefs, we can’t be forced to do it. That is basically what the Equality Commission expect us to do, they expect us to go against our Christian beliefs despite how we feel.”
“We are hoping for other Christians, other businesses with a Christian ethos like ours, that it does give them the opportunity to run their business according to Christian principles and live out their faith in their workplace without feeling like they’re under stress.”
His wife, Amy, also chimed in: “We have been called bigots and it seems to be at the minute that if you disagree politely with gay marriage then you are named as a bigot or a homophobe and that’s not what what we are at all.”
“If someone said could we turn back time and would be do it all again we would say absolutely. It has been a real time of blessing for us, God has really strengthened our faith in him and answered our prayers and strengthened our marriage and our love for each other and we have been really supported and blessed by the Christian community.”
As mentioned earlier, Peter Tatchell threw in his support behind the pair, saying: “The judge concluded that service providers are required to facilitate any ‘lawful’ message, even if they have a conscientious objection. This raises the question: should Muslim printers be obliged to publish cartoons of Mohammed? Or Jewish ones publish the words of a Holocaust denier?”
“Or gay bakers accept orders for cakes with homophobic slurs? If the Ashers verdict stands it could, for example, encourage far-right extremists to demand that bakeries and other service providers facilitate the promotion of anti-migrant and anti-Muslim opinions. It would leave businesses unable to refuse to decorate cakes or print posters with bigoted messages.”